Colorado may be on the verge of becoming ground zero in the national battle over gun control as the recall of state Senate President John Morse moves closer to reality.
After the Colorado General Assembly passed a series of gun control bills in its 2013 session, recall petitions were started against four Democratic legislators: Morse, who is from Colorado Springs, Sens. Evie Hudak of Westminster and Angela Giron of Pueblo, and Rep. Mike McLachlan of Durango. The efforts against Hudak and McLachlan were abandoned before signatures were turned in. Based on the formula to initiate a recall, recall proponents need 7,178 valid signatures against Morse and 11,285 against Giron to put the recall question before voters.
More than 16,000 signatures were turned into the secretary of state’s office against Morse, and more than 10,000 of them were validated in the secretary of state’s initial review. Slightly over 13,500 signatures were turned in against Giron. It’s unlikely enough of them will be valid to subject her to a recall vote.
Over the next few weeks, Morse will attempt to stop the recall by challenging specific signatures and by challenging the wording of the petitions that were used to gather the signatures.
As I’ve argued in the recall attempts against Republican Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and the board of the Evergreen Fire Protection District, the recall efforts against Morse are misguided and an abuse of the recall process. Recall efforts should be reserved for cases of corruption, malfeasance or gross negligence or incompetence. While it is clear that a substantial number of Morse’s constituents are unhappy with his gun control and other votes, they don’t constitute anything near the burden required to recall him.
And like the effort against Walker in Wisconsin, it is already about much more than whether Morse should retain his seat. National fund-raising efforts are in place both to recall and retain Morse that talk about sending messages.
The message that I’m most concerned about is that a successful recall will likely create an ongoing open season on any politician who either does something controversial or who holds a seat that could disrupt the balance of power in the legislature. Since 2000, we’ve seen instances where one party or the other has had a one-vote majority in either the House or the Senate in Colorado three times. Would we really want an environment where recall efforts are seen as a viable enough option that off-year recall elections become seen as a way to overturn decisions voters made during regular election cycles?
If it is ultimately determined that there are enough valid signatures to subject Morse to a recall election next fall, it will undoubtedly mirror the Walker recall in Wisconsin in that it will trigger a national debate, but will be even more targeted as it will involve only voters in Colorado’s 11th state Senate District instead of an entire state.
As the recall against Morse is motivated by disapproval of his record as opposed to instances of illegal or unethical behavior, it is the latest example of the misuse of the recall process and is dangerous in the precedent it may create. Regardless of people’s opinions about either gun control or John Morse, the recall should be rejected.
Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.